Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lady in the Water

Lady in the Water is M. Night Shyamalan's latest movie. I've only been waiting for this one for the past two years or so. So I had very high expectations. Plus, I actually watched this on the very first night it was released, on a Friday.

And it didn't disappoint. This was good.

In fact, I was totally engrossed in this one. The characters were real. Heck, I felt like I was in the movie, just like one of the apartment dwellers residing in Cleveland Heep's residential complex.

It reminded me of when I was a kid, when I would make up lots of stories to tell my brother. I'd have different characters, each with his or her nuances. Sometimes the stories would make sense, oftentimes they were too ambitious causing the plot to crumble (like the time I created a 'princess' in an earlier part, then totally forgot about her in the end, which prompted my brother to laugh and ask "what about the princess?"). Lady in the Water resembles a lot of my childhood imagination, stories where anything goes.

It is also a movie about my friends and acquaintances. It was like M. Night made a movie that described some of my dreams where friends and people from all places would get together in one fable. I would love to watch this film with them. Though I'm not sure if they will relate to this as much as I do.

Like Shyamalan's past films, he leads you into thinking one way, then swerves in another direction. For instance, Signs isn't really about aliens, Unbreakable isn't about invulnerability, and The Village isn't about monsters. This movie is advertised as a fairy tale. And while it does have some fairy tale parts, I believe it's really about something else.

I'm predicting that a lot of people will hate this movie. It's the type that will disappoint those looking for quick thrills or amusing diversions. You won't get that here. In fact, while I was watching in the moviehouse, I noticed a couple walk out in the middle of the film. And after it ended, I overheard one teenager proclaim "This is the worst movie I've ever seen!" M. Night's critics will bemoan the fact that he gave himself another significant acting role in his own movie. Plus, it doesn't follow the usual formula we've all been accustomed to watching. I just hope people don't hate this too much.

Some parts that I felt could be improved: I thought some of the more important details had to be emphasized and explained as the storytelling can get fast and confusing. It is easy to lose track of the characters. I also found the cookbook writer's sister to be irritating at times, and didn't contribute much to the story. The character of 'Story' could also use some work as she oftentimes slowed down the pacing of the film, breaking the momentum.

What I loved about Lady in the Water is how it creates special meaning out of commonplace people and things. How each seemingly insignificant group of characters find themselves having special significance. And how it is told with such realism, that things even fall apart, then come back together.

Rating: 5/5 * * * * *
Something special

(Minor spoilers in the comments section, where I discuss some plot details and special meanings in the movie. -rob)


rob said...

** Some spoilers and rob's interpretation **

Lady in the Water is advertised as a fairy tale. But my take is that it is a movie about roles. The way each person has a role to play. And the human need to find something that has meaning. In modern life, we have our roles assigned to us by other people who pretend to know more about us than we do about ourselves.

In 'Lady', the film/book critic represents the authority figure or expert who knows everything and gives each person an assigned role. And he does assign roles, but they are incorrect because in real life, the roles we are assigned to do not represent the true roles that are meant for us.

Only until Cleveland Heep ignores the stereotypes and sees himself and his neighbors for what they truly are, will he get things right. Then the roles become more natural. I love the nature of each of the 'role' and the cute way each role is filled by a character you won't expect. The roles are: A man who has no secrets, The one who has an opinion you respect, The one who sees deeper things in everyday objects, A group of people who are always together, A Healer, A Writer, and The Guardian who we presume to be Cleveland himself.

The big party where every apartment dweller gathers together is a great scene. Everything falls apart because of a fundamental flaw in reasoning. This is where Cleveland realizes he gave too much credibility to The Critic, saying something to the order of "How can anyone be so arrogant as to know exactly what will happen".

The fate of The Critic signals the turnaround in the movie from confusion to order. It is when the characters stop acting out roles given to them and start playing out the roles that were meant to them. I love how all this turns out. And the ending, though there's no twist or big surprise, had a very cool effect on me.

roehl said...

i guess i also belong to the minority who loved the movie. i might write a review of my own in the future even if you have already mentioned most of what i wanted to say.

rmacapobre said...

having played dungeons and dragons (a fantasy role playing game) and the changeling (a role playing game where the players role play the fae). i was interested right off.

my favorite part is the gathering of the people to play special parts in her "ascension". the pot heads could have been easily us only we really dont smoke but we do engage in interesting conversations ..